Georgina Campbell's Book Reviews

Lyons Café Cookbook Two by Gary LyonsIt seems only the other day that Gary Stafford published his super book of recipes from the lovely Lyons Café in Sligo Town yet, not only has it already been reprinted, but Gary and the team haven’t been slacking in the meantime either as the follow up Lyons Café Cookbook Two made its appearance just before Christmas (€22 + 8.50 p&p online from here; also from bookshops in the Sligo area), and it is a great credit to them.

Once again, Gary and his team have produced a handsome book that is as pleasing to look at and to handle as it is to read, or to cook from. As before, the contents are based on customer requests and the recipes will be very familiar to anyone lucky enough to have eaten at the café - or to have enjoyed any of the wide range of breads, cookies, cakes and desserts from The Bakeshop, which has opened since the first book was published.

The food at Lyons Café is imaginative and very, very tasty - but there are no gimmicks and, whether you’re making a basic stock, a seasonal soup, one of the great range of salads and sandwiches, a hearty main course such as the roast pork below, or something from the bakeshop, the recipes are very do-able (and well photographed).

Middle Eastern influences are strong, but the suppliers are very local and one of the things I like best about this book is the introductory pages that set everything into a meaningful context by detailing the local ingredients and suppliers that the Café depends on for its success, the people on the team, and the fascinating ‘potted history’ of Sligo and its roots as a market town.

I love this book and I’m sure that anyone who cares about good food will love it too.

Roast Crackling Pork LoinSAMPLE RECIPE: Roast Crackling Pork Loin

When it comes to crackling, the secret is in the preparation. Ask your butcher to prepare the joint by scoring the skin for you. Take time with pre-oven preparation and you will be rewarded with a fantastic meal.

Serve with our Crispy Roast Potatoes or Savoy Cabbage and Celeriac. Alternatively, good side dishes that also work well with this are our Spring Onion Mash or Dauphinoise Potatoes. (Recipes for all of the side dishes suggested above are given in the book, also the chicken stock in the ingredients list below).

2 kg loin of pork
1 tbsp sea salt
olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp arrowroot (mixed with a little water)
250ml dry cider
250ml chicken stock
ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 240°C.

Prepare pork joint: using a sharp knife, score the skin into thin strips (your butcher can also do this for you).

Pat the skin dry as much as possible. Leave to air dry for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle around 1 tablespoon of sea salt over the joint. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Rub the oil and salt really well into the scored skin, making sure it gets into the slits.

Place joint in a roasting tin on top of the roughly chopped carrots and onions. Place in the oven. After 30 minutes reduce the heat to 180°C. In total you want to ensure you cook for 25-30 minutes per 500g of meat.

Use a meat thermometer or metal skewer to test the meat. When juices run clear it is ready to be removed from oven. Take the joint out of the roasting tin and allow the pork to rest for at least 30 minutes.

To make the gravy: Discard the vegetables. Tilt the tin and spoon off fat leaving only the juices. Place the tin over medium heat, stir in the arrowroot mix, add cider and stock. Using a whisk, bring to a simmer whilst stirring. Season with salt and pepper.

Tip: The fat under the skin reacts with the salt, which makes the skin puff up and crisp. If you don't rub the salt in properly, the crackling will have that chewy texture.


This Is The Burren, by Carsten Krieger (Collins Press, hardback €19.99),While it is not a food book This Is The Burren, by the acclaimed photographer Carsten Krieger (Collins Press, hardback €19.99), takes a holistic view of this intriguing place - and the Burren Ecotourism Network, which includes The Burren Food Trail, is given special mention in the Acknowledgments and by Carol Gleeson, Manager of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, in her contribution to the Foreword.

The importance of food production and tourism in the Burren, and its role in developing and protecting this unique landscape, is gaining both national and international recognition. While this book was in production, The Burren took the 2015 Restaurants Association of Ireland ‘Foodie Town’ title, as the place that ‘set the benchmark for food tourism in Ireland’, The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark was awarded a new UNESCO designation, and The Burren Food Trail was named the Irish winner of the 2015 “European Destination of Excellence – Tourism and Local Gastronomy” (EDEN) award for ‘developing a tourism offering based on their local gastronomy that balances sustaining the local environment with the promotion of viable tourism’. 

Eva Hegarty - Burren Freerange PorkThese great achievements reflect the vision, dedication and sheer hard work of the people involved in the Burren Food Trail, the Burren Ecotourism Network and the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, many of whom feature in this beautiful book, especially in the final chapter, dedicated to People and Places. Not all are involved with food, of course, and alongside larger than life food and drink characters like the Lisdoonvarna craft brewer and publican, Peter Curtin, and Eva Hegarty of Burren Free Range Pork (right), the roll call includes writers, historians, musicians (notably P. J. Curtis, the Kilnaboy native who is all three - author, historian and broadcaster - and whose evocative Foreword sets the poetic tone of the book), artists, gardeners, perfumiers (The Burren Perfumery is one of the area’s great success stories) and crafts people.

But Carsten Krieger is best known as a landscape photographer and his close relationship with it and the Burren’s history, heritage, flora and fauna is palpable in the stunning and sometimes haunting imagery. Carsten and his wife now live in County Clare, but perhaps it should come as no surprise that his own introduction to the Burren was the result of learning that it was the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, as he captures that sense of other-worldliness uncannily well.

This Is The Burren is a beautifully produced yet compact volume, ideal for visitors who need to be practical about the weight of their luggage. But, for those who are not restricted by size or weight, it would be a treat to see those wonderful landscapes in a more sumptuous format - a limited edition coffee table book, perhaps?


Northern Ireland Producers GuideAnd so to something very different, and yet also special of its type. To coincide with the Northern Ireland’s Year of Food and Drink 2016, Food NI and Taste of Ulster recently launched a series of new Food and Drink guides.

By promoting Food NI members and giving details of what they do, where to find them and how to get in contact with them, these compact little Food Producer and Taste of Ulster guides give a great overview of what’s going on in the development of food production and hospitality in Northern Ireland.

And, this year, Food NI has created an additional guide, the Food NI Drinks Guide 2016 with details of both established drinks producers and the new wave of craft brewers, distillers and more. In addition, they are currently working on a street food guide - whoever would dreamt, even a few years ago, that all this was possible.

The guides are available free from Tourist Information Centres, and also distributed to journalists, the Guild of Food writers both UK & Ireland, all ports and airports in Northern Ireland, Connolly Station Dublin, places of visitor interest, serviced and non serviced accommodation and at all Food NI events.


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